Skunks are very tough animals, and will not show that they
are hurt or sick. This increases the chance that a disease
or condition is discovered at a late stage. Keep a close eye
on your skunk and learn their normal and individual behavior
(each skunk responds differently). Zoonoses are diseases and
conditions transmitted from animals to humans. In the text
a zoonosis will be marked with *. But people can also transmit
diseases to animals. It is not always apparent that an animal
is infected but the infection can therefore be transferring
to humans and other animals. Normal hygiene guidelines can
prevent a lot: Regular cleaning of accommodation, sleeping
and toilet boxes and washing the hands with soap and plenty
of water after any contact with animals, do not eat between
the animals and the washing of hands before eating. When the
suspicion of a zoonosis consult your physician immediately
and / or veterinarian.
average body temperature of a skunk is between 34.4 ° C (93.2
° F) and 36.2 ° C (97.2 °F).
heart beats 150-155 times a minute.
skunk breathes 15 to 18 times per minute.
conditions of stress (eg a visit to the vet) to the heartbeat,
breathing and body temperature may increase.
abscess is a quantity of pus inside a previously non-existing
cavity. Abscesses are almost always due to a bacterial infection.
This can be caused by sharp objects (splinters, bone fragments,
shards, biting, scratching nails) that has pierced the place.
The bacteria secrete toxins, causes cell death and resulting
into an inflammation, which attracts immune cells, some of
which also burst. This creates a capsulated cavity in the
tissue filled with pus. Pus consists of liquefied dead tissue
cells, live and dead bacteria and dead white blood cells.
A superficial abscess can be recognized by an abnormal thickening.
Abscesses can burst when the pressure becomes too high inside,
then it can be dangerous because bacteria and toxins could
get into the bloodstream. Abscesses need to be treated as
soon as possible by a veterinarian. An intact abscess has
no benefits of antibiotics because the capsule prevents the
antibiotic to do its work. Usually, an abscess needs to be
opened or surgically removed.
healthy neutered or spayed skunk is odorless. Thanks to the
special structure of its hairs, they are able to take on the
smell of their surroundings. In a bed of straw, they take
on the smell of straw, on the lap of a perfumed lady they
will smell like the perfume after a few minutes to perfume.
a skunk has a strange body odor it usually indicates health
problems. A worm infection or problems with the teeth can
cause skunks to smell faul. Non neutered skunks can smell
strong in the mating season to indicate to conspecifics that
they are "ready".
any case, there is often a problem with a stinky skunk and
the cause will need to be resolved.
limbs are in a strange position they are usually fractured,
sometimes even the broken bone comes through the skin. Sometimes
it is difficult to see a fracture (fractures of the skull
or pelvis), x-rays will have to confirm if this is indeed
the case. In some cases a very complicated fracture or a shattered
bone a cure is not always possible. Shattered limbs are usually
amputated. It's amazing how quickly skunks adapt to live with
one leg less. A common cause of fractures is Bone Density
Loss (BDL). Always consult a vet on suspicion of a fracture.
Density Loss (BDL)
is a serious condition. A lack of calcium, vitamin D3 and
phosphorus causes brittle bones. This may end in fractures
and even loss of function of the limbs. BDL can only be determinened
by a combination of an X-ray and blood tests. At an early
stage there is no sign of osteoporosis on the X-ray, but there
are abnormal values seen in the bloodwork. In an advanced
stage blood levels are normal but on the X-rays it is very
clear to see that the bones become thinner and more fragile.
The diagnosis must be determined by a veterinarian. Treatment
depends on the severity of BDL but will always be combined
with a diet.
A skunk has very little coat care. Only during the molding
periods in spring and fall some brushing may be needed. It
is not necessary to wash a skunk. Skunks have a layer of sebum
in the hair that makes it dirt resistant. Washing away the
protective layer of sebum from the hair. This makes the coat
actually less dirt resistant. Only when absolutely necessary
such as when they have soiled themselves and it cannot be
brushed out a bath would be no luxury.
healthy skunk has a glossy coat with no bald spots and the
white parts are realy white. A yellow or orange glow is due
to an excessive sebum secretion. Increased sebum secretion
often indicates an underlying problem. Worms, renal and liver
disease are known causes of a yellow skunk.
there is a more innocent explanation for a yellow skunk. Sebum
production is stimulated by water and helps to make a skunk
waterproof. "Outdoor" skunks sometimes turn yellow within
a few hours after heavy rain or snowfall. A humid place to
sleep contributes to this also, so make sure the skunkhouse
has dry bedding. Skunks that are regularly bathed are more
likely to turn yellow as they need to replace the washed away
the wild skunks live to be 3 to 6 years old. Biologically
speeking, their bodies do not last longer. It is striking
that the teeth of a wild skunk that died a natural death has
many teeth missing or has an overall poor condition. This
is due to natural wear. In pet skunks the same pattern is
seen. Dental problems often occur around the age between 3
and 6 years old. Some dental problems may be caused by a poor
diet but the majority is due to natural wear and tear with
age. Check your skunks teeth frequently so early tartar build
up can be removed and bad teeth can be drawn to prevent bacterial
infections. Symptoms of dental problems; Smelly breath, drooling,
strong body odor, yellowing of the coat, red or bloody gums,
worse eating or chewing food on one side of the mouth rather
than alternating sides. Healthy dentures have white teeth
with no cracks in the enamel or broken teeth. The gum has
a pink color.
may occur in older, severely fat skunks and skunks that have
too much refined sugar in their diet. Also, there may be genetic
predisposition. At the foundation it is known that three skunks
from the same litter developed diabetes. Diabetes is incurable
but treatment with insulin it may well be controlled. A veterinarian
will test the skunk, and must "set". Then the owner will have
to learn to inject insulin every day.
lice, ticks and mites*
Regular treatments, at least four times a year, with spot-on
drops for dogs prevent skunks to get infected with fleas,
lice, ticks and mites. When skunks become nevertheless infected
then it depends on the severity of the infection whether a
treatment from the vet is needed. Fleas, lice, ticks and mites
cause itching and in severe cases, anaemia or skin infection,
skin/ear mites can cause malformation of ears and nose. Ticks
can spread several diseases.
gastric ulcer is an inflammation of the stomach lining. By
the action of gastric acid and infection by the bacterium
Helicobacter pylori (naturally present in the digestive tract)
a gastric ulcer will not heal by itself. Symptoms include
drooling, vomiting, stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and weight
loss. If an gastric ulcer is not treated a hole in the stomach
can occur which causes peritonitis and abdominal inflammation.
Also, the intestines are damaged so nutrient uptake is hampered.
Treatment is often lengthy and involves the use of antacids,
gastric liners, antibiotics and anti-nausea agents.
is important to regularly handle and touch a skunk, take a
look at the eyes, ears and teeth. A visit to the vet is made
less stressful if it is accustomed to be touched. The best
way to pick up a skunk is to scoop it with one hand underneath
the belly and the other hand on the back to secure it. Never
lift a skunk by its tail. Skunks can not bear their own weight
on their tails when lifted. This may cause injured muscles,
tendons and even dislocated vertabrae and may even result
are particularly susceptible to worms. Many imported skunk
kits appaer to be packed with worms. Deworming should be done
at least six times a year. Do not use substances with ivermectin
or piperazine. This can lead to vomiting and or seizures.
Some species of worms can cause illness in humans and/or other
pets. Worm eggs are NOT effected by dewormers. Wash
cloths and towels at high temperature to kill of the eggs.
Skunkhouses can be cleaned after deworming with a steam cleaner.
for dogs, cats and ferrets, there are no specific vaccines
for skunks. Inoculation is not without risk. It is known that
skunks became seriously ill and even died after inoculation
with the wrong vaccine. However, certain vaccinations are
required if you want to cross national borders with your skunk.
disease is caused by a Borrelia bacterium. These can be transmitted
to humans and animals by ticks of the genus Ixodes.
are strong suspicions that other blood-sucking insects can
also spread these bacteria but this requires further investigation.
Symptoms include: a typical red spot with a lighter center
(erythema migrans) on the skin where the tick has bitten.
In such cases there is always an infection. But in many cases
there are no EM spots detected / noticed while Lyme disease
is detected. Moreover, it is difficult to discover such a
place under the thick fur coat of a skunk. Other symptoms
include fever, pain and flu-like symptoms, joint pain, paralysis,
meningitis and deafness. Treatment of Lyme Disease is a specific
antibiotic therapy in combination with anti-inflammatories
and is usually a long term treatment. Complete recovery is
possible in a very early stage. Check with a suspected Lyme
disease case always a vet and try to collect ticks to be identified.
is the way an animal moves. Abnormal movements have always
a cause. Known symptoms of abnormal mobility are; dragging
the hindquarters, tail or paws, shaking of the head, seizures,
tremours, rubbing the butt on the floor, limp, in short movements
that are not typical. Causes may be, broken bones, nervous
system disorders, parasites, muscle injuries and illnesses.
Always consult a veterinarian in these cases.
and seizures can be caused by calcium deficiency or low
blood sugar levels and diabetes.
the hind legs (paralysis), a limp may be caused by Lyme
disease, spinal injuries and broken bones, nervous system
disorders and extreme muscle injuries.
with the butt on the floor is usually the result of a
worm infection or inflamed anal glands.
shaking of the head can be caused by earinfections, earmites
A skunk uses his long fingernails as tools. To eat, digging
and grooming his coat. In nature nails are worn down naturally.
In captivity, it is nevertheless necessary to regularly check
and clip nails if necessary. Make sure there is not too much
cut of and watch out for the vein that runs through the nail.
Use a clipper that is suitable for clipping dog's nails as
the nails are very hard. In most European countries it is
prohibited to declaw. Declawing makes a skunk severely handicapped
and should be seen as a form of mutilation.
the percentage of overweight people is growing. Veterinarians
see the same trend in pets. Overweight (both human and animal)
is mainly caused by the combination of physical inactivity,
poor nutrition and bad food habbits. Skunks are particularly
susceptible to developing obesity. By nature, they have a
tendency to build up fat reserves to get through times of
scarcity and cold. Obesity has serious health effects, diabetes,
heart disease, high cholesterol levels, hypertension, osteoarthritis
and more ... Make sure that a skunk gets enough exercise,
weigh them regularly and watch the diet. On the "food and
weight" page there is more information about the weight of
prolapse is a part of the intestines that come out of the
rectum. It looks like a shiny red object hanging from the
anus. Sometimes only up to an inch (a few cm) but in severe
cases more than 2 ½ inches (7 cm) . The causes may be a worm
infection, diarrhea, disease and stress. Never push it back
yourself, the chance of the intestinal damage is present.
Put the skunk in a clean carrier on a quiet and dark place.
If the intestine doesn't automatically retracts within one
hour or the skunk will scratch or bite at it, or rubs his
butt on the floor veterinarian help should be consulted immediately.
If waited too long without a treatment the intestine could
die of due to compression of the intestine and an intestinal
reconstruction must be done. This mostly causes skunks to
become permanently incontinent. The pouch technique is a way
of stitching the intestines inside the body so that the rectum
stays in place. This technique also causes skunks to become
incontinent in some cases. Therefore this technique should
only be considered in those skunks whom often suffer from
a prolapse with no obvious causes.
is caused by fungus (Trichophyton and Microsporum species
are the most common) and not a worm or mite as is often thought.
Many animals and people carry them without symptoms. A fungus
reproduces through spores, which can in brushes, pens, baskets
and blankets, and in this way, other animals and humans become
infected. When an animal is infected with a fungus, all other
animals and people that came in close contact / have been
in close contact need to be tested and treated to prevent
further spread. Also brushes, pens, baskets and rugs should
be steam cleaned or washed at high temperatures to kill the
spores. Ringworm is expressed in round bald patches with a
red border. Sometimes there are flakes of skin to be seen
and there may be itching. In older fungus spots that are starting
to heal develop new hair in the middle, and the typical ringworm
ring results which gave its name. Some vets use a Wood's lamp
(black light) to detect fungus causing them to fluorise. This
does not work on Trichophyton. A fungal culture provides more
Skunks have an induced ovulation. This means that the ovulation
is triggered by chasing and biting the females in the neck
area by the males. Now in the wild the territory of a skunk
is quite large and a female has numerous ways to escape or
avoid a male if she is not willing /ready. In a common household
a female skunk could never escape the harasments of the male
skunk and such mating rituals could happen to end very nasty.
Neutered and spayed skunks have more stable hormone levels
and are therefore less susceptible to mood swings when mating
season arrives. It minimizes the risk of tumors and moreover,
unspayed females may not come out of heat if they have not
mated and can devellop bone marrow depression. This causes
kidney and liver failure and ultamately death. This induced
ovulation can also be caused in a female skunk when other
household pets (even if it is playful behavior) chase them.
If the females are not spayed they risk not coming out of
heat and may die because of that. So if you don't breed skunks,
have them spayed and neutered.
wounds such as scrapes, scratches from nails and teeth can
be cleaned with water and a dermal desinfectant until they
are healed. If an infections occur there counsel a veterinarian.
Large and deep or open wounds should always be treated by
a veterinarian. Therefore do not wait too long, the animal
is in pain and infections occur very quickly. Concerning eye
injuries one should also counsel a veterinarian. There might
be something in the eye that needs to be removed.
check your veterinarian first if you have questions about health
or medical issues!
of Sympatric Striped, Hog-nosed and Spotted skunks in West-Central
Texas S.A. Neiswenter, D.B. Pence and R.C. Dowler
Biology of the Striped Skunk B.J. Verts
of Surgical Implantations of Temperature Dataloggers on Reproduction
of Captive Striped Skunks Y.T. Hwang, Gentes, S. Lariviére
and F. Messier